DARPA-Funded Inflatable Robotics Helps Spark Idea for Silver Screen Star

Make-believe soft robot in Disney’s newest movie has roots in real-world robotics research

The giant, balloon-like inflatable robot named Baymax in Disney's Big Hero 6 has its roots in real-world research conducted by iRobot Corporation, Carnegie Mellon University and Otherlab under DARPA's Maximum Mobility Manipulation (M3) program. The film's co-director, Don Hall, has said he was inspired to cast Baymax as an air-filled, soft robot after he saw an inflatable robotic arm on a visit to Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute. Carnegie Mellon's work in soft robotics has been supported by DARPA and the National Science Foundation.

DARPA's M3 program is creating and demonstrating novel design tools, fabrication methods and control algorithms to make robots more mobile and better able to manipulate objects in their environment. One area of M3 research is fabric-skinned robots that are filled with and manipulated by air.

"The M3 program has made great strides in making robots move more naturally like animals or humans move," said Gill Pratt, DARPA program manager. "Inflatable robots, like the arm developed at Carnegie Mellon, offer unique benefits such as high strength to weight, small size when uninflated, low fabrication cost, and safety when working around human beings."

This video by DARPA performer Otherlab shows the human-like motion and dexterity achievable with inflatable robotics: http://ow.ly/DZpz1

The M3 program also has developed robots that draw inspiration from four-legged animals, such as the cheetah. View the electric cheetah-bot developed by DARPA performer MIT here: http://ow.ly/DPpo2

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ST Robotics Develops the Workspace Sentry for Collaborative Robotics

ST Robotics Develops the Workspace Sentry for Collaborative Robotics

The ST Robotics Workspace Sentry robot and area safety system are based on a small module that sends an infrared beam across the workspace. If the user puts his hand (or any other object) in the workspace, the robot stops using programmable emergency deceleration. Each module has three beams at different angles and the distance a beam reaches is adjustable. Two or more modules can be daisy chained to watch a wider area. "A robot that is tuned to stop on impact may not be safe. Robots where the trip torque can be set at low thresholds are too slow for any practical industrial application. The best system is where the work area has proximity detectors so the robot stops before impact and that is the approach ST Robotics has taken," states President and CEO of ST Robotics David Sands.